TJ's, Newport

2 March 2002

Six years ago I saw the last Magnum concert in Wolverhampton. Last night I saw the first concert of the reunion in Newport, and all I can say is that they are just as good as I remember.

I was right at the front, leaning against the stage. Normally you get a dreadful sound mix from there, but in TJ's it seemed extremely clear and well balanced. And LOUD. So loud that my whole body vibrated — mostly due to Harry James' thunderous (excuse the pun) drum sound. He's a fantastic drummer and fits into the band really well.

So getting to the front was a good move, and it was worth a bit of pushing and squashing to be able to stand three feet from Bob.

Bob Catley must be the most charismatic frontman in rock. He always looks like he's enjoying himself, he dances, clowns around, and shakes as many hands as he can reach. He says clap and you clap. He says dance and you dance. And he projects so much emotional involvement with every song; with his face, his gestures, his pantomiming of the lyrics, and of course his incredible emotive voice. Sure, he's a poser. But he's a good poser.

But I've seen Bob a handful of times with a variety of ad-hoc backing bands over the last few years. What made this different was that it's Magnum again. A new drummer and a new bass player, but still the same band, in spirit, as I followed for over ten years. There's something about a Magnum concert which is hard to define but... there's a feeling which makes it different to anything else. It's partly the atmosphere from the crowd, but it's mostly because of Tony Clarkin's incredible songs and Bob's ability to wring emotion out of them. And that's what I've missed for the last six years.

Ok, a set list. I have a terrible memory for set lists. But it opened like this:

Vigilante, Wild Swan, Everyday (from the new album).

Then, not necessarily in this order:

Cry (also new), Les Morts Dansant, Backstreet Kid, Days of No Trust, Just Like January (new), How Far Jerusalem, The Spirit, Rocking Chair.

Then finishing with:

Kingdom of Madness.

And encoring with:

Sacred Hour.

Everyday and Just Like January are two of my favourites from the new album and sound fantastic live. The other new song, Cry, isn't a favourite and hearing it live didn't change my opinion. Oh well, you can't win them all.

The rest of the set doesn't hold any surprises, I suppose, and there isn't really much to complain about. I was so happy to hear Backstreet Kid played again that I could forgive them missing out Storyteller's Night and Just Like an Arrow. And everything else you would expect is there.

The highlight? You know I'm going to say The Spirit. Played the way they always played it live: half the band exits, leaving Bob to sing it accompanied by Tony's guitar and a thousand-strong choir. It's a moment that still puts a shiver down my spine and a lump in my throat. "To the Spirit inside You always be True..."

Definitely worth the seven-hour trip from Newcastle.

Probably the best concert I've ever seen.

Thank you.